Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Author-2-Author: Terra Elan McVoy PART II

by Brittany Geragotelis

As promised, here's the second half of my Author-2-Author convo with the amazing Terra Elan McVoy. If you didn't read the first half, check it out here.


Thursday, October 10, 2013 8:30 PM

Terra Elan McVoy
Do you have this thing where
you look back on what you wrote,
later, and say, “Huh, apparently
I was working through such and
such and I didn't know it until I
finished this piece?”

Brittany Geragotelis
Totally. I have whole books that
were cathartic experiences for me.
That’s what writing my book
PAINLESS was for me.

I was working through the anger,
frustration, feelings of being
alone and screwed by life after
being diagnosed with Celiac
Disease. I was wishing I was as
kick-ass as my main character
and trying to work through my
feelings through her.

Terra Elan McVoy
You are more self-aware than
I am!

Usually I’m like, “Huh. So
that was it,” way after a book
is done.

Brittany Geragotelis
Hahaha. I’m not always that

Now going back to something
you mentioned
mentioned that readers tend to
dislike Nikki in CRIMINAL. I get
the same thing about both my
main characters in WHAT THE
Readers get so mad at the
choices they make. But I’m like,
“Good! That's the point!!!!
You’re not always supposed to
agree with them or their
decisions. But it’s in the
story for a reason!”

Do you think sometimes
readers don’t always get what
we’re trying to do in books
with characters who are hard
to love?

Terra Elan McVoy
I completely think they don’t
always get it, bless their
wonderful selves. I’m not sure
why this is, but it seems that
there are a lot of readers who
want to relate to the main

Brittany Geragotelis
Instead of learning from them.

Terra Elan McVoy
Which is fine, because yes,
totally, we all want someone
to look up to or imagine we
could be.

But for me, that isn’t the
point of reading at all. I
want to look at people I
don’t know, don’t agree with,
don’t have any connection to,
and I want the writer to do
the work it takes to make me
love them anyway.

Brittany Geragotelis
Or sometimes those characters
are there simply to make us
FEEL something. Whether it’s
anger, sadness, frustration,
compassion, fear.....sometimes
realizing who we are through
reading stories IS the point of
the story in the first place.

Terra Elan McVoy
But at the same time, you
don’t want to totally alienate
the reader.

The trick is figuring how to
make despicable characters
interesting enough or human
enough to keep the love coming
from the reader.

Gillian Flynn does this
magnificently in GONE GIRL.

Brittany Geragotelis
And I think that's what a
great story does. It brings
up emotions in us that make us
think about who WE are and
what WE want to do and be.

Terra Elan McVoy
You are so right there. Good
characters make us think. It’s
what I love most about reading:
studying how good writers do
what they do to make me feel
these things. The mechanics
are more difficult than most
people think. And I love that.

Brittany Geragotelis
I don’t know if it’s just me,
but I like the unlikeable
characters. The ones that aren’t
perfect, the ones that are
damaged and flawed and wrong.
Does that make me totally
weird? Or am I maybe just as

Terra Elan McVoy
You mention Buffy a lot in
terms of your own work, and
she is a great study, too.
She’s beautiful, and strong, and
all these other perfect things.

But somehow the writers also
made her flawed. She isn’t always
a good friend. She suffers
because of what she does.

She has questions all the time
about what she’s doing.

Brittany Geragotelis
And she’s always pushing people
away. But still love her!

That’s why, if a Buffy fan likes
my writing, I know I’ve hit
the mark.

Terra Elan McVoy
And of course the queen of
despicable/loveable characters
is Scarlett O’Hara.

It’s not even a “love TO hate”
thing. It’s more of an “I hate
her AND I love her” thing.

Brittany Geragotelis
Which brings us back to
studying other flawed characters
to try and answer the question:
Why is it okay for these
characters to be flawed but
still be beloved or enjoyed?
I’m always wondering why people
won’t forgive my characters
for their flaws.

Terra Elan McVoy
Which is funny, because it’s
our flaws that make us most

Brittany Geragotelis
I totally agree!!!!!

Do you think as writers we
consume stories differently?

Terra Elan McVoy
Oh, definitely.

From an early age, like 16,
I was interested in the how
as much as the what. So,
I’m always looking at books
and wondering how the writer
did what they did to create
or Y feeling in me. I don’t
know how to read for “escape.”

Brittany Geragotelis
I also think that people allow
for more flaws in characters
on TV or film than they do
in books....

Terra Elan McVoy
Why do you think that is?

Brittany Geragotelis
Maybe because it’s a more
social thing? Somebody’s
creating something for you...
and they’ve already shown you
how they look, their movements,
how they act, etc. In books,
the reader is alone to shape
the world with their imagination.
We give them the parameters,
but they build the rest of
the world.

Also, I think sometimes when
readers dislike a character
in a book, it’s because they
recognize certain flaws about

Terra Elan McVoy
Oh wow that’s deep.

Brittany Geragotelis
We tend to put ourselves in
the role of the main character
in books and therefor don’t
want that character to go to
the dark places they do.

Terra Elan McVoy
That is so true.

Brittany Geragotelis
And with visual storytelling
(movies/TV), it’s clearly
someone else in the MC’s shoes.

Terra Elan McVoy
Sometimes there are just
shoddily written characters
though, right? I mean, the
writer hasn’t done the work
to make the character a
real person. And maybe it’s
easier to fill in those gaps
when you can see them?

Brittany Geragotelis
Yes. And sometimes watching
something is less...
personal for people than
reading. A tad bit more
passive, so consumers are
more willing to just go
along for the ride and accept
that the creators know
what they’re doing.

Terra Elan McVoy
Don’t even get me started
about passivity. 


And your thing about
characters being mirrors
we don’t want to look into
is dead on.

My curiosity is: so many
people have written that
they don’t like CRIMINAL
because Dee is bad boyfriend,
or because Nikki is obsessed
with him.

And these things are TRUE.
But that’s the point of
the story.

Brittany Geragotelis
That’s the same problem I
have!!! It’s so frustrating.

I’m always like, “You're not
supposed to like them, but
it’s supposed to make
you learn something, feel
something, be a better person,
change, treat people better,
learn how not to act, etc.
Life is full of people with
character defects who make
mistakes...maybe by having to
look at them, it’ll help shape
who we’ll become.

Terra Elan McVoy
Sometimes people just don’t
get that. But because I’m
always looking at how *I*
failed, I’m ever learning from
these folks about how I can
do better.

Another thing to consider,
though, is that we’re
writing for people who are
in the early stages of
figuring out who they are.

Brittany Geragotelis
What was the most recent lesson
you’d say you learned? Writing-

Terra Elan McVoy
Most recently, I’ve learned
that being paid as a writer
is a total dream job—and
more people than I expected
are unhappy with it.

I’ve learned that I always
want to keep my gratitude
for being able to do this at
all. That for me it’s all
about the writing—and writing
well—and the rest is just noise.

Brittany Geragotelis
You have an attitude of

Terra Elan McVoy

Brittany Geragotelis
I love it.

“If it ever becomes about anything else [besides the quality of the writing]
I’m betraying the 14 year-old version of me that cried over an EE Cummings poem.” 
–Terra Elan McVoy 

Terra Elan McVoy
Like I said before, I got
excited about writing very
early; about how I could
illicit a response in a
reader, to convey life in
a certain way.

And I’m constantly working
on being able to do that
well, in a way that’s

If it ever becomes about
anything else, I’m betraying
the 14 year-old version of me
that cried over an EE Cummings

Brittany Geragotelis
But don’t you ever have
moments where the dreaded
ego creeps in? That’s what
derails a lot of writers from
their actual passion: The
desire to be recognized for
doing what they love.

Terra Elan McVoy
Um. Hello, yes?

Of course.

And you would not believe
the volcanic levels of
jealousy I can whip myself

Brittany Geragotelis
What do you do to combat

Terra Elan McVoy
Well, it takes work, like
anything. I mean, I go through
crying/whining/screaming fits
over whatever negative ego
thing might be happening
at the time . . .

But then I hear myself.

And I have constant reminders,
all the time, about why I
want to do this and what
matters to me. It’s like,
you have to have a touchstone,
and keep going back to it over
and over and over…

But the touchstone has to
be solid. It has to come
from something that isn’t
just you fooling yourself.

Conversations like this help
me. When I start talking about
why I write, I remember.

Brittany Geragotelis

I have to constantly remind
myself that none of this
happened for me until I let go
of the control over my future
in writing and just did it
for the love of it!

Terra Elan McVoy
But loving something isn’t
enough. You also have to
do the work. You have to
show up in million ways.
And you have definitely
proved that.

And it’s still not Streets-
Paved-With-Gold for you, 
either, right?

Brittany Geragotelis
Haha. No.

I wish.

Terra Elan McVoy
But, I mean, if it were
easy, would you love it
as much?

Brittany Geragotelis
I don’t think I’d appreciate
it as much.

But the act of writing and
attaining commercial success
in writing are two different

I hope to get to a place
where I only care 10% about
the commercial success.

I’m not quite there yet.

Terra Elan McVoy
That is so true. The
commercial part is important
if you want to keep doing it.

And what you might want to
write may not be commercial.
It is a tough row to hoe.

Brittany Geragotelis

Terra Elan McVoy
It’s also always changing.

Being a writer is harder
than most people think.
And that’s not to be whiny
or anything—certainly there
are many jobs out there that
are much more difficult—but
to also convey that it is
actual work. And just
because you want to write
something well, it doesn’t
mean you automatically can.

Brittany Geragotelis

Terra Elan McVoy
Even in the case of people
who are successful at writing,
it’s still a lot of work for
them. You are always still
trying to learn, to achieve,
to improve.

I think people have this
idea that being a writer
means raking in millions
of dollars and living your
life in pajamas—but that
so isn’t true. Even JK
Rowling is still trying to
get better at her own craft,
as we’ve seen in her two
adult novels.

Brittany Geragotelis
For sure. Even she’s keeping
at it.

Terra Elan McVoy
I bet JK would love this
conversation, actually.

We should text it to her.

Brittany Geragotelis
Haha! Yeah. I’m sure she’d
get right back to us.

All kidding aside though,
I think JK is such a smart
woman and knows exactly
what her journey’s been like.
She’s suffered the rejection.
She’s experienced the success.
She's seen it all. I doubt she 
takes any of it for granted.

Imagine the pressure of
feeling like you have to put
out another HARRY POTTER.
No wonder she wrote her
second adult book under a
pen name.

As a first-time author,
actually appreciated
hearing her early numbers
You know, before everyone
found out she’d written it.

Terra Elan McVoy
She’s really a fantastic
example of what all of
this can be like.

(Though, note to readers:
Her level of success
rarely happens to anyone!)

CRIMINAL is available in a bookstore near you or online here and you can learn more about Terra and her other books on her website.

My books LIFE’S A WITCH, WHAT THE SPELL and KI$$ & $ELL are also available to buy now.

In honor of my first Author-2-Author post, we're hosting another giveaway. Here are the deets:

WHAT'S UP FOR GRABS: Sad Jackal sticker (the band in BEING FRIENDS WITH BOYS) and a copy of CRIMINAL. One lucky person will win!

HOW TO ENTER: Tweet about this blog entry, tagging @thebookslayer & @TerraMcVoy and you'll be entered. Winners will be chosen at random. Contest ends on Friday the 13th at 1PM EST.